"You have to work hard to offend Christians. By nature, Christians are the most forgiving, understanding, and thoughtful group of people I've ever dealt with. They never assume the worst. They appreciate the importance of having different perspectives. They're slow to anger, quick to forgive, and almost never make rash judgments or act in anything less than a spirit of total love . . . No, wait--I'm thinking of Labrador retrievers!" David Learn, 1998

Monday, April 25, 2011

Since He's still alive. . .

Since Jesus is still alive, the day after we celebrated His resurrection, I want to post for you (with the author's permission) the essay he read at our Easter service yesterday.

Hour 36
by Jeremy Bear

It's 4:00 PM on what we can reasonably assume to be April 3rd.  A blood-red lunar eclipse hangs in the afternoon sky, rare for Passover season in Jerusalem.  We're on a grim little plot of land the locals call "The Head".  Or, more specifically, "Golgotha".  Or "Calvary".  Or "Cranium".

Or "Skull".

If you're the Roman government, it's the perfect sort of spot for crucifixions.  Located near the Northwest entrance of the city, it lets visitors and new arrivals know: Jerusalem takes capital offenses seriously.  Cliffside crags and outcroppings throw unfortunate shadows in the shapes of angry eye sockets and a malformed nasal cavity, giving the place its name.

Thieves, malcontents and other reprobates hang from crosses, their arms hyperextended, lungs asphyxiating. Dead or not, their wounds are already drawing flies and chances are, if you're just happening upon this little tableau, you smelled it before you saw it.

The year: AD 33. And everyone knows the name of the still-warm corpse being peeled off his cross and wrapped in linens by two members of the Sanhedrin: that’s Jesus of Nazareth.  Or, to some, “Jesus, bastard son of Mary”.

Within a couple of hours, the body of Christ is taken to a fairly impressive tomb purchased by Joseph of Arimathea.  And there’s no doubt whatsoever: the Son of Man is dead.

It isn’t a coma and it isn’t even “mortally wounded”.  All vital signs are negative.  Blood pressure: zero-over-zero.  Jesus is done.

7:00 PM, Friday, April 3 - Hour #3
What’s left of the now-buried Christ’s blood reserves has begun draining from his capillaries and gravity is causing it to pool at the bottom of his muscles and internal organs.  His face and chest are growing pale, losing more color by the minute, while the backs of his legs, torso, arms and head are purpling and swelling.

Brain activity ceased entirely within 10 minutes of his final breath, but now the cells of his gray matter are already beginning to decompose.

His muscles slowly cure, hungry for warmth and oxygen that just isn’t coming. The linens were treated with perfumes and that helps with the odor, but it won’t keep out bacteria.  It won’t keep it in, either.

Christ’s body is quickly losing heat.

4:00 AM, Saturday, April 4 - Hour #12
His pH has shifted and his cells begin to respond accordingly: they rupture, leaking enzymes.  The bacteria in his intestinal tract that once aided digestion now begins feeding on the intestinal walls themselves, gobbling proteins and excreting methane.

1:00 PM, Saturday, April 4 - Hour #21
Gas collects in Christ’s stomach and large intestine.  His belly and bladder shifts, swells and occasionally ejects a foul mix of ammonia, methane and hydrogen sulphide.

A thin layer of liquid enzymes floats underneath his endoderm, causing his skin to slip.

9:00 PM, Saturday, April 4 - Hour #29
The Hydrogen Sulphide/CO2/Methane mix has reached critical mass and bloats the entirety of Jesus’ corpse, distending his torso, pushing ruptured skin outward. 

Organs soften and froth, hair follicles loosen.  His respiratory system’s a self-sustaining, anaerobic community.

Christ is beginning to putrefy.

3:00 AM, Sunday, April 5 - Hour #35
The linens brown as Jesus’ seething blisters empty into the fabric.  He’s black and marbled, sulfhemoglobin collecting in his settled blood.

He’s stone cold.  And his body is eating itself.

And that’s all.


4:00 AM, Sunday, April 5 - Hour #36
It happens.

Suddenly and strangely, something that can’t possibly be... is.

Something goes wrong.


Something shifts.

Something that can only be described as subatomic takes hold and keeps holding.

Algor mortis reverses into rigor mortis reverses into no mortis whatsoever.

Core temperature rises: 65 degrees.  70.  75.

Enzymes separate and collect proteins, carbohydrates and lipids, blossoming into healthy, functioning cells.  Liquefied tissue layers and solidifies.

Core temperature: 80.  85.

Blood rehydrates and begins absorbing oxygen molecules by the billions.  Skin reconnects with soft fat and tissue.  Lungs deflate, expelling methane, then inflate, now with oxygen-rich air.  His heart swells and, for the first time in 36 hours, beats.

90.   95.

Muscles dilute lactic acids with fresh, pure blood.  Pecs and glutes, delts and quads expand and contract.  Capillaries open.  Veins and arteries pulse.


Electricity sparks through his cerebral cortex, reopening synaptic passages, firing signals and lighting up nerve endings.

Maggots and infection explode from every orifice and dissolve immediately.  Lesions stitch themselves back together.


Kidneys begin filtering. Lymph snakes from tonsils to thymus to spleen and back again.

Christ opens his mouth.


He opens his eyes.

He takes a breath.

And maybe it took hours.  Or maybe it was instantaneous.

But somehow, for some reason, Jesus of Nazareth... The Son of Man.  The Christ.  The Messiah.  Jesus-who-was-dead...


It’s not a healing or a medical marvel. It’s not chemistry-gone-haywire.

It’s something impossible: a refurbished, reconstituted Jesus.  Head to foot, cell to cell.


And this God-power... this subatomic, resurrecting influence... this Authority...

Rather than continuing to radiate out from the tomb, the planet, the galaxy, reversing physics and correcting every death, every wrong... it stops.  It leaves Christ to complete Christ’s work.

What’s more, it leaves the scars: in the hands, the feet, the side.

It knows Christ, clearly, cell to cell.  But it also knows us.

It understands why we needed him to keep his scars.  And why we need our own.

And those 36 hours, from Friday afternoon, April 3, AD 33 to Sunday morning, April 5, AD 33...

There’s been nothing more bewildering, nothing more triumphant.

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